W tries to coin a term—Art Bro—around the recent spate of famous young women dating and marrying men in the art trade. This week’s report is based upon Sotheby’s Caspar Jopling having gotten engaged to singer Ellie Goulding but there’s Jennifer Lawrence’s supposed relationship with Cooke Maroney and the heat-seeking missile otherwise known as Vito Schnabel to round out the troika needed for any trend piece. Here’s W:
a new type of boy toy: the Art Bro, which officially emerged triumphant on Tuesday when news broke of Ellie Goulding’s engagement to one Caspar Jopling, a 26-year-old who hails from the contemporary art department of the auction house Sotheby’s. […] An Art Bro is well-connected and wealthy—or at least used to the trappings of wealth—but discreet, thereby less likely to attract headlines and paparazzi than his A-list bro competition.
There’s only one problem. Art Bros already exist; but the only one of the three aforementioned men who might qualify for the term is Schnabel. That’s not a comment on Jopling or Maroney. Several years ago, one art world participant with well-tuned cultural antennae was the first to remark upon the existence of Art Bros. When queried today, she replied with this description of a real Art Bro:
You can tell them by the beaded bracelets they get on some idiotic faux-spiritual trip they took on a friend’s father’s private plane; the hair long enough to be combed behind their ears; the well-cut suit that can’t quite hide a growing paunch; the bravado about deal-making and the desperation to ensure that they’re not spending any of their own money; the girlfriends found “by chance” from a tiny group of family friends and distant cousins; the beach house in LA they don’t actually own; the Porsche that they do; the stainless steel GMT Master II they wear except at night when they take out the Patek Philippe they were given when they (finally) graduated from a second tier school with a degree in economics; the Instagram stories that mostly involve them jumping off of things into water; the sincerity with which they talk about building a “great” collection, matched only by how swiftly they disavow a market that’s tanking.
Art Bros are better represented by characters like Leonardo DiCaprio, an avid seeker of art deals and active trader in art.
Art Bros aren’t ladies’ men; they are aggressive art buyers and traders. They have seen and admired the trading of some prominent—all male—providers of liquidity, in the form of cash and art works, to the art market. They want to be like those out-sized figures some day.
An older generation kept a certain profile as a collector often going in with others to buy works to be stored away in handshake deals.
Since the financial crash the art world has seen the influx of a group of young men who buy in depth from particular artists with the hopes of making a killing all by themselves. For these young men, who either inherited money or made it in another industry, art is like real estate. Everyone is looking for a big score that they can brag about.
If the Art Bros have a role model, it’s Peter Brant, the polo playing swashbuckler married to a former supermodel who the Art Bros admire more for his savvy trading in Warhol and other artists.
If the Art Bros have a voice, it’s Kenny Schachter, the constantly on the move art-addict with a bit of a chip on his shoulder endlessly seeking the next opportunity.
If the Art Bros have a cautionary tale, it’s Stefan Simchowitz, the publicity-seeking omnivore whose big bets on emerging artists have caused conflicts and lawsuits.
If the Art Bros have a patron saint, it’s probably Adam Lindemann who made the echt Art Bro trade when he sold Jeff Koons’s Hanging Heart (Magenta) for $23m a year after acquiring it for $4m.
Finally, W may have gotten its trend timing on the Art Bros all wrong. Today the Art Bros are mostly in hibernation but four years ago they were actively acquiring anything they could. Does that mean they’ve gone away? Don’t bet on it.